How Well Should You Be Doing to Feel Secure with Your Progress?

Preparation lowers your risk of non-passage. 

Thank you, Fleet Admiral Obvious! You’re welcome, but have you really thought about how much preparation is needed for an acceptable level of risk?

When there are only a couple more weeks to go, the state of the union inevitably seems to turn to “this is awful i wanna die HELP!”

OK, so how much preparation? I touch upon “making your own luck” in my PT guide. Sounds flowery and nice, but I want to be more specific about some “green light” indicators for each section that show that you might be justified in not completely freaking out about your study progress.

I’m not going to scare you like Barbri does by overestimating, though. These are “minimum competence” standards to keep up with, so feel complacent by meeting these benchmarks only at your own risk. I also suggest when to memorize.


How to benchmark each portion of the bar by 2 weeks before the exam
Section Targets by 2 weeks before bar Notes
MBE Overall or on a 200Q practice test:

65% (130/200) is fine. You’re on the right track. Keep doing questions and reviewing answer explanations.

67.5% (135/200) is better. Keep drilling, but maybe you can do it every other day.

70% (140/200) or higher is ideal. You can rest easy for now. Do continue to test yourself in one form or another until bar week.

If you’re getting 80%+, please include a trigger warning before you ask other people how good that score is.

These score percentages assume real past MBE questions.

Feels better to do dinky little MBE questions than doing essays because it’s busy work, and frankly the immediate and objective scores can be addictive.

You should still practice MBE questions until the bar. The MBE accounts for up to half of your total score in most states.

I highly recommend working with real questions from Emanuel’s Strategies & Tactics for the MBE (7th edition, Volume 1) and/or AdaptiBar.

Essays You’ve done 2-4 passing essays and/or outlines per subject.

Dedicate the remaining time to as many essays/outlines per subject (redoing essays or finding more if you have trouble with a particular subject).

Be able to get as many relevant issues and rules as you can.

If you miss issues, review or redo your essay/outline until you can get all the issues and rules identified by the model answer.

I personally liked trying to emulate Barbri’s model answers because they are supposed to be impossible. There’s no need to avoid this because you can emulate the way they set up all the issues and rules and the order in which the issues are presented. Shoot for the moon and fall among the stars, as they say.

Try to finish each full essay in time. Remember you have to manage multiple essays within one big time period. Pace yourself.

Essays are about identifying relevant issues and analyzing them, testing the I and R of IRAC.

You can use essay cooking as a form of deliberate practice and get immediate feedback on how well you’re identifying issues and using rules. Be able to recall and apply the rules correctly, not merely familiarize or recognize.

Try to incorporate all the facts in the hypo, especially in one that lists a sequence of events.

PTs/MPTs 4-7 full PTs (more if you are struggling, fewer if you are not).

PTs are longer than essays. It should be highly organized, if not for yourself, for the grader.

Understand what the major issues are and make them headings (identifiable by the task(s) from the instructions, or perhaps by elements of the law you’ve pulled out from the library).

Try to utilize as many relevant facts as you can for each issue and any sub-issue you’ve organized.

You must be able to finish each PT within time. Figure out your pacing as to how much time to spend outlining and writing. I recommend allocating a maximum of 50% of your time on outlining.

Rule of thumb: STOP outlining when you’ve used up 50% of your time. Not actually finishing the assignment kills many PTs.

PTs are about extracting rules and applying them, testing the R and A of IRAC.

Did you use the all the right facts? 20+ years ago (qualifying this story as an ancient document admissible under the FRE), my parents panicked and thought they lost me in the mall because I was hiding inside a circular rack like a little asshole. Relevant facts are hiding all over the place, and you can manipulate and take advantage of them all you want. Or you can think of the facts as lost children you have to herd back to their parents.

At UCLA, I took Sociology 128 (Sociology of Emotions), which I kinda enjoyed actually, even as a science major. But there were too many books to read. So in the middle of the 8th book I was required to read, I just started looking up the index in the back to find key sentences to quote in my final paper without reading the context. I still got an A on the paper and in the class.

Similarly, the file is like an index of facts you can stick into your “report.” They are intentionally left there for you to use. If you see something that looks relevant, mark it and make it fit in your answer. You don’t need an A on the bar.

If you don’t feel like you’re ready, that’s natural. In fact, feeling like you haven’t grasped everything is a sign of how much you know, probably more than you think you know. I’d be more worried if you’re feeling good about this now or after you come out of the bar.

If you’ve been watching lectures, you’re finally on your own now. No one to tell you what’s what but you and me. You have 3 weeks to grind it out and get in your much-needed practice. Don’t feel bad about practicing as much as you can (before you think you’re ready); it is expected of you.

Don’t put off practice thinking you’ll somehow be OK because you recognize the rules when you read them. Don’t relax because “the average score is only X.” Don’t perform numeric gymnastics with past scaling equations to justify not being as best prepared as you can be.

You can do all that after the bar as you go to bed for the next 120 days wondering how you did,  feeling nauseated with uncertainty and impatience.

When should you start memorizing?

This is another concern I’ve noticed recently.

One camp of people says to memorize in the last 2 weeks for short-term memory. I personally tried to learn and memorize the concepts all throughout preparation. Isn’t that what studying is about?

As you write practice essays and answer MBE questions, the rules will naturally get etched into your head. And as you understand the concepts, you can start to recite rules with key buzzwords.

There is nothing wrong with starting to memorize early (but don’t put off practice just to do this!). Just because you will eventually forget doesn’t mean you won’t retain better the subsequent times you memorize it.

In fact, the key to memorization and learning is frequent recall. So see if you can memorize and recall whenever possible (including during practice), and focus on memorizing in the last two weeks as well. Creating a last-minute acronym may help if you just can’t seem to remember a rule. See also Memorizing for the Bar Exam (to Recall and Recite Rules).

The rule statements don’t have to be identical to whatever you read in outlines as long as you include the main elements in a clear, well-acceptable manner.

And be sure you can actually recite the concepts or rules on your own from scratch, not merely be familiar with them. Test yourself!

Take what you like, and leave the rest. Google tells me it might have been the Dalai Lama(s) who said that about Buddhism. Well, now I’m saying it!

Now I want to ask you: Do you feel ahead or behind right now? Which is bothering you more right now, MBE or essays? Drop a comment below.

And if you liked this article, please share it with your bar buddies.

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